After all the rain we received this winter, we had one requirement for our spring break destination: somewhere warm & sunny!  Ideally we didn’t want to go too far so we decided on Palm Springs which is driveable from the Bay Area (granted, a loooong drive!).  We rented a house with a pool so the kids could have lots of uninterrupted swim time – it was forecast to be in the 90s during our April stay.

As much as we all love to hang out at the pool, I knew we needed to have some activities planned to get out of the house and see some of Palm Springs.  We barely made a dent in my list so I’ll need to keep it handy for the next time we go back.

Living Desert:

The last time we went to the Living Desert the kids were 5 years younger and we spent a lot of time watching the enormous model train display in the center of the park.  This time we didn’t linger too long as it was hot and we wanted to get to the giraffes.  They did love ringing the signal bell though.

Ringing the signal bell at the Living Desert. Palm Springs
Ringing the signal bell at the Living Desert

Our 10 and 7-year-old were so excited to feed the giraffes!  There was a healthy line, but luckily it moved quickly and we didn’t have to wait too long for them to get a handful of carrots and their own turn to feed a momma & baby giraffe.  They loved being able to get up so close to the giraffes!  Such a fun experience!

Feeding a baby giraffe at the Living Desert. Palm Springs
Feeding a baby giraffe at the Living Desert
Feeding the mother giraffe too! Palm Springs Living Desert
Feeding the mother giraffe too!

Look at those long black tongues!

A fun experience to feed the giraffes at the Palm Springs Living Desert
A fun experience to feed the giraffes at the Palm Springs Living Desert

As hard as we tried to get to the Living Desert early we didn’t make it until 11AM when the temperature was well into the 80s.  By that point, many of the animals were hiding in the shade and out of site so we didn’t get to see everything we wanted.  There were some interactive displays like a drum set and some huts for the kids to climb in.  There were also some shows and animal talks, but we didn’t wait for any of those as it was hot and I think the kids heard the pool back at our house calling their names.  All in all, The Living Desert was a good way to spend an hour or two.

Enjoying a break in the shade. It was HOT! Palm Springs Living Desert
Enjoying a break in the shade. It was HOT!

Palm Canyon Trail:

I had read some pretty fabulous things about the Palm Canyon Trail in Indian Canyon.  It’s a natural oasis and the largest grouping of native California palms in the world.  Because of all the rain we’ve seen this year the wildflowers were supposed to be pretty spectacular.

There were signs to watch out for rattlesnakes.  We stayed on the trail and didn’t see any (thank goodness!).  There was a decent amount of traffic on the trail so I wasn’t too worried we’d actually see one, but be alert because they are there!

Descending into the palm oasis
Descending into the palm oasis

It was a good 10-15 degrees cooler down in the oasis with the shade and a decent breeze.  We had never been to a natural oasis and it was hard to believe it was naturally occurring.  Palms, sand, and running streams…..a little part of me could have been fooled into thinking I was in Hawaii.

Amazing tall palms on the Palm Canyon trail. Palm Springs
Amazing tall palms on the Palm Canyon trail

The first 3/4 mile of the trail is mostly in the shade of the palms winding along next to a stream.

Crossing over the stream. Palm Canyon trail. Palm Springs
Crossing over the stream

There were lots of places to stop and explore along the trail.  The kids loved climbing the palms, throwing rocks in the stream, balancing on trunks over the water.  At the beginning of the trail, there are picnic tables near the stream and it would be a perfect place to relax and have lunch.

Amazing naturally occurring palms in a Palm Springs oasis! Palm Canyon Trail.
Amazing naturally occurring palms in a Palm Springs oasis!

After we walked about 3/4 of a mile we left the oasis and started hiking up a more strenuous trail.  Apparently this trail continues on for 15 more miles, but we only made it about another half a mile or so.  Once we were out of the shade and climbing steeply it seemed to zap the energy right out of the kids.

Looking back at the palm oasis on the Palm Canyon Trail. Palm Springs
Looking back at the palm oasis on the Palm Canyon Trail
Cactus flower in bloom! Palm Canyon Trail. Palm Springs.
Cactus flower in bloom!
Many wildflowers in bloom on the Palm Canyon Trail. Palm Springs.
Many wildflowers in bloom on the Palm Canyon Trail

This was our turnaround point – the point at which no one could take another step up the mountain.  After enjoying the views of the San Jacinto mountains and some snacks & lots of water we headed back down the trail.

Thank goodness there was a snack bar back at the ranger station.  The promise of an ice cream at then end of the trail got the kids to power through the trail just a little bit further than they otherwise would have gone.

Snack bar at the Ranger Station at the Palm Canyon trailhead
Snack bar at the Ranger Station at the Palm Canyon trailhead

The Parker For Brunch:

I had heard that the place to go for brunch in Palm Springs is Norma’s at The Parker Hotel.  The reviews were great, mostly raving about the 70s inspired ambiance, the food and the portion sizes, although some complained about the high prices ($27 for pancakes).  I was all in for a chance to see The Parker Hotel.  The entrance is highly photographed and I needed to get inside the hotel.  It did not disappoint.  We sat outside on the patio under the shades and I highly recommend choosing the patio over inside seating.  A reservation is a must especially if you aren’t staying at the hotel.

Bright orange door to the Parker Hotel. Palm Springs
Bright orange door into the Parker Hotel

Although, I guess if you want to take a picture of the entrance like I did, my suggestion would be to plan around the shadows.  Oh, and be sure to wear your matching bright orange shirt!

Now I’m not generally one who takes pictures of food, but the food was too amazing not to.  Below are the “Nutella Packed Jacks”:  what you can’t see is all the Nutella between those pancakes!

Nutella Packed Jacks at Norma's the Parker Hotel. Palm Springs
“Nutella Packed Jacks” at Norma’s at the Parker Hotel

They had our 12-year-old in mind when they created the “Chocolate Decadence French Toast”.  We thought the french toast would just be drizzled in chocolate, but we were wrong.  It was like a stack of brownies covered in syrup & chocolate sauce and then topped with whipped cream with some strawberries thrown in for good measure.  HE. LOVED.IT.  “Decadence” was perhaps an understatement.

"Chocolate Decadence French Toast" at Norma's at the Parker. Palm Springs
“Chocolate Decadence French Toast” at Norma’s at the Parker

Our 7-year-old is going through a phase where he wants to order whatever our older son orders.  He thought the french toast looked amazing and loved the whipped cream, but he ended up only taking a few bites as it was just too rich for him.  Luckily my Belgian Waffle was plenty big for the two of us to share!  Mike got the Huevos Rancheros.  We all agreed that it was incredibly delicious and worth the splurge.  I think this was the most expensive meal of our trip.

Chocolate French Toast. Norma's. Parker Hotel. Palm Springs.
When your breakfast is bigger than your head….

After brunch, we took some time to walk around and enjoy the grounds of The Parker.  Part of the grounds were blocked off for “registered guests” only, but our kids had no trouble settling right in and relaxing.

Relaxing at the Parker Hotel. Palm Springs
Relaxing at the Parker Hotel

Pool Time!

Last, but not least, we spent plenty of time in the pool.  With this view it was hard to stay away.

Pool & yard at our rental home in Palm Springs
Pool & yard at our rental home in Palm Springs

For a family that does not have a pool at home, we certainly own a lot of pool toys & inflatables.  We brought dive toys, a floating volleyball net, rings to swim through, and some inflatable animals & lounges which all kept the kids busy for hours & hours.

Things We Didn’t Get To:

As is usually the case, I had a list of things to do much longer than we could actually get to.  This just means we’ll need to take another trip to Palm Springs!  Here are some of the things we didn’t get to:

  1.  Aerial Tramway – The aerial tramway takes you to an elevation of 8,500ft in 10 minutes in a rotating cable car.  Even though I’m afraid of heights and the thought of this gives me major butterflies, I still wanted to do this as the views and hiking at the top are supposed to be great.  However, with Kate recovering from 2 recent concussions, her doctor warned us that the quick change in elevation could give her a headache and we decided this was something that could wait until our next trip.
  2. Hadley’s Fruit Orchard – The Palm Springs area has quite a few date farms that I’d like to visit at some point, but Hadley’s had me at “date shake”.  This is located in Cabazon before you get to Palm Springs so we planned to hit it on our drive out.  But we had a large breakfast at Billy Reed’s and when we passed Hadley’s I just couldn’t stomach the idea of a shake.  Next time.
  3. Cabazon Dinosaurs
  4. More hiking:  Tahquitz Canyon; Murray Canyon
  5. Joshua Tree National Park

If you have other places you love, let me know so I can add them to my list!

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